The Business of Batik

The guest on the CBC radio show said that every time you recall anything from the past, the simple act of remembering alters the memory.  To bring the past to mind  is to change it to fit into your present.  This was a very smart guest (Ironically, I can’t recall his name at the moment. If you really want details I’ll get them for you, but not till after this trip) and I choose to believe what he said.   It explains nostalgia.  It explains why the halls in your high school look so small when you visit it years after graduating. It explains why we call the past the “good old days.”

I know the details can be important, but those are the things that tend to go missing from my memories of Ghana when I’m in Canada.

Visiting Ghana brings me back to the reality of Ghana: the smell of earth, moth balls and soap when you walk from the tarmac into the airport; the process of going through customs, baggage check, security and security again; brushing your teeth with bottled water; bartering for a taxi cab…  The good news is that there’s such a thing as muscle memory.  While I might not recall it perfectly back home, I remember it clearly when I get here.

Some things.

Everything else, I’m blaming on the rapid pace of change in Accra.  Since my visit last year, there are buildings I don’t remember, rates that have gone up, cedi value that has decreased, finger scanning at the airport.  There’s a KFC in Ghana, people!

So I’d be lying if I didn’t say I feel some slight uneasiness this first full day in Ghana.  I write that just so I remember it for next time.  When Leisha or Karen ask me whether they should bring water, what the washrooms facilities will be like, what they should wear,  how much will it cost, sometimes I just say “Yes.”

Honestly, though, we’re having a great time.  Well, I am and I think they are.  We’re laughing lots, so that’s a good sign.

Today was a little bit about taking it easy, since our trip here turned us into extras from a scene out of Night of the Living Dead.  We revived ourselves to pay a visit to Global Mamas, an amazing NGO which trains and employ women to make batik fabric and create beautiful products from the fabric, such as clothing, bags, aprons, tablecloths and napkins and doggie bow-ties?  Yes, they know their consumer demographic – pet parents love batik too!

I might have had maybe a tinge of jealousy perhaps when Leisha and Karen met with Renee, the woman who runs the show, to talk about partnership and then picked out some amazing samples to bring home to customers.


Karen and Leisha pick out samples from Global Mamas.

I’ve already bought too many souvenirs.  Usually one would ask, Now what can I get for so-and-so?  This time I found myself asking, “Now who could I give this such-and-such to?”  (Sorry, hon!  In a case like this, budgets are meant to be broken.)


I honestly don’t know what’s going on in this picture – something about it being too hard to make a decision.

We then visited another business partner, Esther, who runs a small shop filled with miles of batik fabric.  This is the lady who has supplied me with most of my batik for Big Village for the past four years.   Whenever John-Mark comes to Ghana on a mission trip without me, I always send him to visit Esther because he has Thee Best Eye when it comes to picking fabric.  It’s a God-given talent.  That reminds me, John-Mark, Esther asked me how you were, told me twice to give you greetings and to wish you God’s richest blessing. I think she likes you.


Me with Esther’s gorgeous batik fabric.  Only one thing in this picture lacks colour…

I explained to Esther that Leisha and Karen are the new owners of Big Village.  Esther didn’t understand why I would leave my own business.  I came up against this too with Big Village’s other partners, TK Beads, when I made the announcement.  Owning a business is a very personal thing here.  There’s no selling of businesses, unless perhaps it’s code for closing your business.  When business is good, you are surrounded by family members working by your side, who will eventually take it over.  When business is bad, you work harder to keep it going.  Esther’s prices have gone up.  They do every visit and she always reminds me of the state of Ghana’s currency, the cedi.  “We are dying!” she says, “We pray for change soon.”  When we lived in Ghana, in 2008, the cedi was redenominated; four zeros were slashed off the end to make it on par with US.  Now, it’s 1.80 to the US dollar.  The cedi goes down, Esther’s rate goes up, the price stays the same.  I feel things are changing so quickly, Esther says things aren’t changing fast enough.

Tonight we’re setting our alarms for 4 a.m. to head up north tomorrow, allllllll the way to the top of the country, Bolgatanga, to visit the basket ladies!  So curious to find out what I’ve forgotten since my last visit. I will be sure to explain that selling my business to Leisha and Karen means something wonderful for them.


Karen and Leisha in Esther’s shop


Esther’s sons sit at the sewing machines.


Esther’s grandson looks out the gate of the shop, where fabric and measuring tape are part of his world.


I didn’t sign up for this.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Business of Batik

  1. Oh, friend, I loved reading this. I have such similar thoughts about memories when I travel back to NZ. It’s such a wonderful feeling feeling such love for another place….being able to call another place home. But then it’s so hard at the same time because you can’t be in two places at once. I love the photos and love seeing the excitement that Karen and Leisha have…but love mostly seeing you and getting to be up to the minute with what you are doing there! Please know you are missed!! xoxo

  2. Enjoyed reading this, Loreli, and seeing the photos. :) I spent a summer in Zambia and South Africa back in 2000, and I can only imagine how much it’s probably changed since then. I still have a batik dress that was custom made for me. Love how colorful they are, each pattern unique.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s